Birds of A Feather

Lani and Madeira are finally reunited (1/2 Weekend Challenge).

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The Diamond of Kalea is located on Kalea's extreme west coast and called as such because its completely made of a crystalline substance called Skyglass. Home of the Alvina of the Stars, cultural mecca of knowledge seekers, and rife with Ethaefal, this remote city shimmers with its own unique light.

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Birds of A Feather

Postby Lani Stranger on March 1st, 2019, 7:40 am

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36th of Spring, 519AV
The hot steam of the bathing house filled her nostrils and glued her hair to her temples. The world was slowly passing her by, and as Lani sat in the warm water she watched people come and go from the bath house. Some stayed for a short while, long enough to scrub their hair and genitals and then depart. Others lounged like herself, and she even noticed two teenagers fooling around in the corner. The idea that this was a public bath and that seeing such a thing should concern her did not occur to the slightly buzzed Lani as she watched the world pass her by and waited for the sun to set, taking the alcohol cloud that invaded her brain with it. The scented oils that had been placed in the public grotto clung to her skin, and she absently rubbed at her arms to smooth the oils over herself. She was technically trying to get clean, to wash the stench of sex and alcohol off of herself, but as Lani’s mind was still coming down from the buzz of partying after having not done so for so long, the best she could do was soak. Her mind was getting clearer, and as it did it would not allow her to snooze. Leth was rising into the sky and the dusk rest was nearly over. She would have to rush to the Infinity Manor, wherever it was, if she wanted to catch Madeira before her night begun. Lani was unsure when her beloved friend was due to give birth, or had given birth, but the half-blood didn’t expect the coming of a child to slow down the Spiritist, in fact she couldn’t even imagine it. She was still shocked that Mads had gone through with the pregnancy in the first place. Mistakes were mistakes, but herbs were still herbs.

Get off your ass. She told herself, slowly lowering herself beneath the water until the hot liquid engulfed her face and hair, securely wetting every crevice of her on last time. Slowly she rose from the water, wiping her hands across her face to clear her eyes and nostrils of any liquid and then striding over to the steps and emerging from the public bath. It took her a tick to track down a towel and pat down her body, making sure she was not too slick with the oils. She squeezed out her hair and then consulted the bench were her clothes had been hazardously strewn. Carefully Lani turned her Bryda and Vinati correctly out and begun slipping her gilded limbs into them. They were her simple clothes, a dark black with little glass beads attached to them in intricate Inartan designs. Today, her clothes matched her hair and eyes, leaving only her skin to offer some semblance of color to her portrait. Color is a fictional concept, anyway. Lani thought to herself with a slight snark for her own thoughts, shrugging into her Vinati and then picking up the wine bottle she had bought as a gift for Madeira. Lani knew very little about giving gifts or what was appropriate, but she figured it was hard to go wrong with wine.

The half-breed strode out of the bathhouse with the intention of feeling like new. Instead, the world that was Zintia peak stared back at her with an uncomfortable familiarity. She recognized every building she walked past, even though it had been eight years and time was apparent. Of course she would recognize the Zintia. Spider cawed at her as she emerged from the house, and she reached a hand up, partially to offer him the perch, and partially to feel for the bird’s aura with the speckles on her fingers. He was far happier than irritated, she could feel. He seemed to want to stick close to her in the unfamiliar surroundings, but not close enough to perch on her shoulder, he was still a curious crow and a juvenile at that.

”Fine, be like that.” Lani teased the bird in Nari and he cooed back at her before giving his wings a few flaps to glide much higher than herself, looking over the bustling streets with his eyes. Oh how she wished to be able to see what he saw. There had been more construction since she had last strode through these streets, and while she could see the alley way that lead to the Azure market, it seemed smaller than she remembered, likely because she herself had grown. The thought lead her to think of the other things that had grown. The pale little human she had ran around the unpredictable streets of Alvadas with would be grown now, just as grown as she. Would she recognize her dear friend?

”Excuse me?” Lani stopped by a bench where two particularly crumbly looking elders sat, chatting about something that Lani didn’t care to listen for. ”I am looking for an estate, and am curious if you’ve heard of it. The Infinity Manor? I believe it is on this peak.”

”Haven’t the faintest, dear.” The elder woman said, and the man simply huffed at her presence interrupting their conversation. Lani glanced away from the couple for a tick, weighing her options and how to proceed.

”What are you, anyway?” The old man’s gruff voice rang out and Lani’s head snapped back to him. Her eyes narrowed slightly at his rude comment, but she was not totally offended by it. Wind Reach had been worse after all. Lani didn’t answer the man, placing a hand on her Talon Sword and stomping off, not offering the elders a polite bow of thanks. She would have to find the Infinity Manor herself.

Lani begun making her way out of the business squares of the Zintia peak, entering the residential avenues. The first few streets were apartments, stacked and wound together likely housing more than they could hold. Afterwards the buildings lowered and stretched out, making way for a few trees and more elaborate architecture as they formed more reasonably spacious cottages. Knowing Madeira would not house herself in either option, even in dire straits, Lani continued walking. She reached up to braid her hair in the typical Inartan fashion, growing used to loose locks that she had practiced so much to fit in the past few seasons. Out of the corner of her eye she kept an eye out for Spider, watching the crow glide beside her every few chimes, only to be distracted by the glint of skyglass or a trinket in someone’s window. When nothing came of his small ventures he returned to her, just as loyal as Val said he would be.

It was only once she got to the much larger estates that Lani really began to pay attention. She had no idea what would lead her to the Infinity Manor. Would it resemble Alvadas in anyway? An impossible task, since Alvadas really didn’t resemble anything other than confusion and illusion. The street here had two paths carved into it, that of carriages and that of feet. Just walking made her feel as though she was not worthy to look upon the intricate skyglass architecture and carefully carved animal door knockers. The perfectly preened lawns and massive structures of the estates before her felt nothing like familiarity to the mixed blood. When she had lived in Lhavit she had lived on the Sharai peak, as her mother wanted to keep her away from the havoc of the city during the Dark Days. The unfamiliarity of this elegant neighborhood began to relax Lani more than if she had recognized her surroundings, and she found more vigor in her steps. And then she saw it.

The Infinity Manor.

Or, well, so she thought.

Lani couldn’t be sure, since she had no markers other than the name and peak, but by the look of the estate she suspected she knew only one person who could so thoroughly destroy something so elegant. Lani tested the gate, finding it giving to her light touch, and so she stepped onto the property. She could tell it had been fairly unkempt before the destruction, but then someone had dug a moat into the lawn. A moat, like in a castle. Of which she could see one hovering on the edge of the property. She supposed Madeira still fancied herself a queen, that wasn't a surprise.

Lani turned her attention to the entrance of the actual house as she approached. The outside of the house looked as though it had been under the assault of war, with windows broken and panels scratched and smashed. It was functioning, but barely. Even if it was not Madeira’s dwelling, her curiosity would not let her leave such a mess without first poking around. As soon as she reached the door, all her suspicions were confirmed. Don’t mind the ghosts/they live here too. Lani grinned at her friend’s warning to visitors. But as her eyes grazed the scrawled note beneath her grin split into a full on laugh. Stop stepping on the flowers/you're upsetting the house.

”It seems you did bring some of Alvadas with you, how in Mizahar did you do that?” Lani muttered, reaching her hand up for the animal knocker which lay slightly unhinged and slammed the Okomo head against itself in order to announce her presence. Spider was circling the yard, and landed on a branch, calling her attention.

”Stranger! Stranger!” It cawed at her in Nari, and she turned to give it a quizzical look. The crow had yelled it at her the first time it had seen her, and she thought the thing knew her name, but in a different language. Had he seen someone else who had spooked him?

”Spider! Come, come.” She whistled at it in Nari, trying to get the thing to come to her and away from whatever spooked him. Lani was half turned away, decked head to toe in foreign clothes, talking to a bird in a foreign language with one hand on the scabbard of her curved talon sword, and the other cradling an expensive bottle of Lhavitian wine when she heard the door open. Lani’s head whipped around, solid black eyes focusing on the face that greeted her, the opal necklace giften to her by Madeira nestled securely over her collarbone beside the starfire key gifted by Leth. Lani was unable to hide the excitement and anticipation in her face as it split into a cheerful grin. ”Madeira Craven?”
Last edited by Lani Stranger on April 1st, 2019, 5:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Birds of A Feather

Postby Madeira Craven on March 2nd, 2019, 5:27 am

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"Maddy says I'm not suppose to talk to strangers."

It wasn't Madeira on the other side of the door. Rather, it was one of the ghosts the door so helpfully warned its visitors about. She was just a little girl, with big brown eyes behind bouncy brown curls, picking at the scabs on her lips. Her shroud was thin and flickering in the late dusk gloom as she stood in the crack of the door. The girl glanced at the crow, who was croaking in a strange language, and back to the stranger on the doorstep.

"Is that your bird? We have a bird. He's called Bird. He doesn't talk, though." Her eyes flickered over the half-blood woman's shoulder and then immediately dropped back to her toes, and her picking became more frantic. "I'm not suppose to talk to strangers."

"Good girl, Em. Are you looking for me, stranger?"

Madeira was standing below the porch, halfway across the hastily constructed bridge that spanned the moat. Dressed all in white, in gloves, dress and diamonds, her voice was equally colourless and cold as she beheld the armed woman who was knocking on her door. Over the Spiritist's shoulder was an axe with a handle dark with the dozen years and the dozens of hands that had held it, and her shoes were dark with dirt. Something in her eyes spoke of her irritation at being interrupted with whatever she was doing.

Yet even as she stood there, squinting into the dark at her visitor, some undefinable thing was clawing at her memories. It wasn't much, just the slant of the woman's shoulders or prehaps the relaxed, cocky way she stood, but something about her was whispering to the Spiritist, telling her to look again.

It was only when the stranger turned to face her, showing liquid black eyes and a familiar pendent that flashed in the setting sun, that recognition washed across her face. The dispassionate cold evaporated, and behind it was something young and small as she saw her old friend for the first time in a very, very long time.

"...Leavou?"

No, Leavou was a ten-year-old in Alvadas with scabby knees and a plum pits in her hands, Madeira told herself. This was a woman with braids in her hair and skin showing brown and gold through the cuts of her strange foreign clothes. She was older, tougher, with a decade of experience behind those strange black eyes. Her heart seized as she realized who she really was.

"Oh my gods, Lani." The axe dropped to the bridge with a clatter and the Spiritist ran up the steps of the porch with a blaze in her eyes. As she neared she seized the taller woman by the shoulders, wrapping her arms around her in a rare show of affection that was at once tender and possessive. Lani smelt of perfume and oil and the lingering traces of alcohol. There was nothing familiar about the hardness of her arms or the soft curve of her waist and breasts. But at the same time, Madeira imagined there was. The body had changed, but there was something familiar about the soul inside.

"Oh gods, Lani! You show up at my house in the middle of the night, unannounced and ten years too late, and wine was the best you could do?" Her hands held hard, clawed fistfuls of black fabric as she laughed, full of delight and grief and a strange sense of triumph on the steps of her ruined mansion. How full circle this all was. "Never mind, you're just in time. Come, bring your wine. Tonight we're burning my castle down."
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Birds of A Feather

Postby Lani Stranger on March 2nd, 2019, 6:22 am

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Lani was about to reply to the ghost, she wasn’t very familiar with the dead but she had heard of Emma before, so she was at least not surprised when it was a child who answered the door. Before she could properly express a word to the essence of a child that stood before her, the real Madeira answered her, a poisonous threat dripping through her words, Lani’s casual hand actually gripped the sword. There was a brief unfamiliarity, and a shot of tense defense in the words. Perhaps she was at the wrong house.

”Leavou?” Her old name rung out, and Lani squinted into the dark at the ghostly frame of her old friend, Leth’s moonlight reflecting off her white dress. Before she could look too closely the woman was a blur of motion, headed straight for her.

”Mads!” Lani’s voice rose in excitement and she spread her arms to welcome the fish eyed girl. She recognized traces of this woman’s face, but everything about her was different and foreign, and yet none of it was a shock. Quick to embrace her old friend, Lani wrapped her arms around Madeira, her smaller frame encased easily in Lani’s gilded form. She squeezed harder than she should have, having forgot that pregnancy was a recent trauma to Madeira’s body, and pulled the shorter girl into her enough to lift her slightly off her feet.

”All the Gods above, it’s you. It’s really—“ And then the unexpected happened. There was a release of happiness that seemed to be triggered by the touch of her old friend, and with it came a surge of emotions that the nomad hadn’t felt in a long time. She didn’t have a name for it, it was a happiness that required tears… nostalgia? What a concept. Lani opted to stop speaking as the lump in her throat threatened to dissolve her eyes. When the two finally pulled apart, Lani didn’t let her friend go, scared she would dissipate. The half-Chaktawe studied the face of her human friend for a tick, eyeing the changes there. She had mused at what Madeira would look like as an adult for seasons, and yet she was nothing like Lani had expected. Pale and thin with large doe blue eyes, of course. But there were small differences, her jaw was more defined with age and the lines that should have been beside her eyes from laughter were missing. Still, Madeira was youthful and utterly astonishing, and Lani expected nothing less.

”Well, the more bitter the person, the more bitter the alcohol right?” Lani grinned at Madeira, swallowing the sudden emotion that had seized her throat earlier. There was a light bounce to her step as she followed Madeira back to where the woman had been standing, escaping her observations earlier. She was all too happy to join her friend in the destruction of property, until a thought occurred to her. It was stuck in the awakening haze of her brain and dusty from over ten years of neglect, but she recalled the sand castle that they had once met over in the streets of Alvadas. Castles, it seemed, were becoming a theme. Spider cackled worried thoughts to her, and she didn’t spare the bird the attention, still watching her friend closely as if her carefully defined face would reveal any secrets that the mixed blood had missed over the last ten years. Even in such a state, even under such company, Madeira was nothing but poised and perfect, years of training becoming almost instinct to the noble. Even her clothes were pristine, even marked with dirt as they were, the white accented the diamonds perfectly, and it seemed to hardly bother the Spiritist that she was ruining her shoes. To Lani it seemed excessive, but it also seemed so very much like her friend.

”Do share, what is forcing you to burn your castle down? Lost a battle?” She asked, long strides taking herself to Madeira’s side. It was half a rhetoric question, as it was evident by the state of her property something had happened here, but the question also held a small weight of curiosity as Lani searched for answers from her childhood playmate. The elated feeling of the reunion giving way to a muted pain in her temples, and suddenly the wine, which Lani had thought was expensive and fine until Madeira's assessment of it, looked more appetizing than she had thought when she bought it. She cast her black gaze on the shadowed hunk of a building that she had spotted on the edge of the Manor’s property. From here she could not see if it was wood or stone, but if Madeira was set to burn it, they would surely find a way.

As they neared the building and Lani was able to get a better look at it, she bent slightly to set the bottle of wine on the ground beside her. It immediately tilted and fell sideways in the grass, but Lani paid it no mind as she unsheathed her sword from her hip, using her opposing hand as Narth had taught her. Posing as if she had fought anything but a practice dummy before, the half-blood sized up the castle to her blade, and then twirled the long hilt of her sword to take an offensive stance towards the building. ”Cease thy discontent by my Lady Craven and perish in fire, you obscene fiend!” She grinned to the castle, childish antics not having left her as she assumed the role of knight that she had pretended to be so long ago. The difference between a child with a twig and a grown woman with a sword and some training only made the comedic show that much more silly.
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Birds of A Feather

Postby Madeira Craven on March 5th, 2019, 2:13 am

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While the two women embraced on the porch, delighting in the presence of their childhood friend, another presence that was very much alive moved around them. The Architectrix infected house pushed its question weakly into Madeira's mind, a thought simmering in defensive bafflement at her familial reaction to a stranger.

In the depths of her mind Madeira soothed the rough edges of its brutalized soul. This is Lani, and she is our friend, she told it, feeding it back the warmth and trust she felt for the half-blooded woman. The presence crept away, but its wary eyes never left the newcomer. She could feel its consciousness moving through the top floor, rocking the cradles of her children. They would wake soon, she knew.

Hand and hand, the two women thundered down the steps and across the rickety bridge. Madeira scooped up her axe on the way, and let it swing dangerously loose in her hand. Soon before them loomed the Castlette, the rough stone looked black in the fading light.

”Do share, what is forcing you to burn your castle down? Lost a battle?” Lani put down the wine and brandished her sword like she knew how to handle one, and drunkenly challenged her cottage to a fight. Madeira laughed like she hadn't in years. Wasn't this familiar, to hide behind the bolder girl as she fought her battles?

"My good knight", Madeira adapted a high, fluttering damsel voice for their pantomime. "Dare you leave your treasure so unprotected?" She stooped to pick up the bottle of wine, worked out the cork with much finagling, and sipped straight from the bottle. Her eyes were overbright as she regarded the little castle, like a woman recovering from a fever, or a nightmare.

"We won the battle, actually." She laughed, but her eyes were sad. "You wouldn't know it to look at this place. But we did." she pointed out the great swaths of blackened grass, and the claw marks across the house. "We were attacked by one of Uldr's priests." She started, and went on to explain the story: how Death showed up in her house to warn her of Uldr's plans, how she left a gift for her strongest ghost, how they barricaded themselves in the sentient house, and the fate of the five Shinya who came to help. "I really thought we were going to die, but we never did. In the end I was marked my Dira, and we've been picking up the pieces ever since."

By then a light misting of rain the sky threatened finally broke. Madeira didn't seem to mind, the ground was already spongy with the constant drizzling of the spring. Besides, with a house like hers a little rain would not stop the fire she wanted. She pressed the axe into Lani's unoccupied hand, but kept the wine.

"Since you're so full of energy, you can help chop the furniture. I'm still all kinds of unwell", she massaged her ribs, where the half-blood's exuberant hug had bruised her tenderly healing flesh.

She led the way inside, out of the rain. The stone cottage was tall, but no larger than an ordinary cottage. What made it exceptionally strange was the inside. It looked like a bomb had gone off in a tiny research lab, or a vicars closet. An enormous table was flipped to its side, with all its legs inexpertly hacked off with an axe. The enormous closet had been thrown open and tipped over, a plethora of scarves and linens and black silk scattered about. Everything that was moveable by a skinny, wounded woman was piled high in the center of the stone floor, in an obvious attempt to make a bonfire. There was an unpleasant, chemical smell that seemed to rise from the few soft fabrics.

Madeira returned to what she had been working on before the house had announced that Lani had come to call. She moved to the desk in the corner of the room, piled with research and half-finished animation projects, and began throwing them in the center of the room with the rest. A notebook flipped open as it hit the pile and sang plaintively the lyrics it had opened to. Madeira sipped daintily at the wine.

"A housemate of mine used to live here. A Nuit, well over a hundred years old and the most bitter, unpleasant soul you've ever met. Still, she was capable and intelligent and loyal, and in a strange way she was my friend. But she's with Dira now, as she should be. We don't have her body, but we're still going to give her the funeral pyre she deserves." She threw a mechanical arm on the pile, and a fine painting toolkit that exploded into shards on impact.

After a few chimes of working, she picked her way across the carnage and handed Lani back the wine for her turn to drink. As she did she regarded her friend for a moment, looking past her own surprise and shock and really looking at the woman for the first time. She had grown up to be... beautiful. There was really nothing left of that scabby little girl she knew. And dressed in sword and dark, exotic clothes she looked like she was from another planet entirely. Madeira remembered the letters she had received, that spoke of finding knowledge and moving forward. She had wanted to travel to Avanthal, and the Spires. Why move backwards to Lhavit?

"You've always been capricious, Lani. But what made you come back here?" She smiled, "It couldn't have been because you missed me so much. What are you looking for here? Or are you running from something. Did your Inarta warrior finally snap into monogamy and threaten to marry you?"
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Birds of A Feather

Postby Lani Stranger on March 5th, 2019, 4:35 am

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Lani re-sheathed her sword and listened to her friend’s story, a little fascinated with the recounting of the God Lani knew of and the one that Lani knew nothing about. She knew of Dira as a concept, but the idea that the deity would come down and speak to a follower, let alone gift them with something was entirely foreign and new to the half-Eypharian. Lani accepted the ax, watching Madeira’s soothing fingers on her own ribs and realizing that she had given birth not terribly long ago and wondering what that would do to the body. Terrible things, she imagined. It seemed fitting to ask how the child was, but Madeira with a kid still sounded so foreign to her she couldn’t get the words out in time to ask before Madeira disappeared inside the stone building.

Curious as ever, Lani did not hesitate to follow. As soon as Lani stepped inside, she could not entirely hide the shock on her face. Her left thumb twiddled with the hole on the butt of the ax where a string was supposed to attach to hang it, as she took the room in. Whoever had lived here, had not seemed to have done much living. As Madeira filled her in, Lani realized why. The undead thing that Mads had befriended had turned the simple cottage-like castle into a lab, perhaps chemical, of which something had happened to it. Perhaps the fight with Uldr’s… Priests? It was clear Madeira had happened to it as well, and she wondered if there was a vengeance or sorrow in her actions to tear up the room so feverntly. Lani suspected the latter would manifest into the former in her friend, no matter how dear she considered this friend to be.

”What..?” Lani questioned the sudden voice she heard as Madeira threw something inconsequential into the makeshift bonfire, but the singing faded away and nothing else came of it, so Lani let it pass. She was now beginning to suspect her mad friend had somehow brought Alvadas with her, if only in bits and pieces. Striding around the bonfire, Lani took to the desk that Madeira was working on, happily throwing all her weight into the ax. Loyalty. That is why Madeira had liked whoever this mysterious undead woman had been, there were few things that she knew her friend valued more than collecting people that were useful to her. This realization rushed to the forefront of her mind with sudden luster to be heard once Lani came to that conclusion. Of course Madeira would collect people, after all Lani had been her first collected person, hadn’t she? The Knight and Queen game they had played so often was not merely that, nor was it titled so. It was The Queen and her Knight, and Lani simply hadn’t paid attention to what that meant before. No… she had known. As this thought occurred to her, she knew it was not new, but it was not a bad thought, and that is why she hadn’t paid it too much mind in the other times it had come up, when reading Madeira’s letters. Madeira was drinking a little more, and Lani began to really wish she had brought a second, grinning at the pale woman’s soured words of the death of a friend.

Hacking into the legs of the desk, Lani brought the thing to pieces, letting it fall haphazardly to the ground and tossing bits in. She listened to her friend’s updates, so much had happened since their last letter. One the last wood was splintered into a reasonable piece, Lani kicked it into the prepared pyre, and she realized Madeira had been silent too long. Curious the half-blood’s black eyes found her friend, perking an eyebrow just in time for Madeira to begin speaking. The words that came out where not what Lani expected, and her curious brow fell as her face relaxed into a veil of no expression. She had forgotten that she had told her dear friend all those things, shared more with her than she had with anyone. Lani had always been content to keep to herself, but she trusted Madeira. She had only forgotten how much her friend watched, and how quickly she put things together.

”I killed him, I can never return.” Lani let the grave words hang in the air, flipping the ax from one hand to the other to accept the bottle, craving her own sip to ease the growing headache that was sure to doom her to a hangover in the morning. For but a tick her mind flicked to the images of Narth’s bloody face as she clawed his eyes out, or his jaw slack and the vessels in his lips popped while she strangled him. They were but fantasies, but satisfying all the same. She could only keep the straight face for about ten ticks before she broke into a mischievous grin. ”There is no concept of marriage in Wind Reach, he got bored.” She grinned, light hearted once again as she took a swig of the wine. It was not entirely the truth, but it was believable enough. She wanted to change the subject but she knew not to do it too quick to arouse suspicion. The phantom pain radiated in her organs, although she couldn’t remember the actual sensation of pain any longer. It reminded her why she left and why she sought the comforts of home. Narth’s mirror was in the bottom of the ocean, and she had her crow, that was all she needed. And now, she had Madeira.

”Ha! No, I came for you.” She turned, stepping closer to Madeira to speak. She had perhaps not come as far down from the buzz she had achieved at the Red Lantern and she let her shoulder’s relax, opening her body language up as much as possible as she stepped just a little too close to the smaller woman. She could have extended the bottle from where she stood, but instead she leaned down a little closer, just enough so that her desolate gaze was a little more level with the cloudy blue human eyes of Madeira. A lazily playful smile played on the corners of her lips just before she presented the bottle to the human, carefully. ”To see how my dear old friend fares.” She offered a sweet smile now, stepping back and watching those penetrating blue eyes that saw just a little more than she was comfortable with. The reason was genuine, and Lani had little issue admitting it, but she had not shared why she suddenly sought the comfort of a life-long friend and a city she was familiar with. Flattery tended to throw people off the scent of dishonesty, even when it was only dishonestly through concealment. But after that? Vulnerability reigned them in. She did not want to manipulate Madeira into falsehood, the roots of their relationship was deep and real and no matter how analytical Lani was, she could not deny that. But she couldn’t help but try and put on a face, even if it was similar to her own. She wanted to be the older, stronger, braver girl that Madeira saw her to be, and she wanted to be close to her friend. The quicker she could confirm their friendship was just as it once was, the easier life in Lhavit would be. Wouldn’t it?

”That, and it occurred to me that passing through Morwen’s city after her disappearance… after the genocide of her people? Not the best of ideas.” Lani remarked, shrugging and stepping to the side partially again to face the pyre, hands sticking into the loose pockets of her Bryda as if looking for something. All her things were stacked carefully in the oasis nestled in the crook of her neck, and so she had no need for flint and steel on the journey, so it was hidden among her papers and clothes. ”You should tell me more about this child of yours. What is his name? What is he like?” She asked, her curiosity from earlier resurfacing as she glancing around the room for more things to add to the pyre. She normally wouldn’t have had faith that this kindling would light but her nose had been assaulted with a thick chemical when she first walked in, so she assumed Madeira had prepared. ”Have you got a light?”
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Birds of A Feather

Postby Madeira Craven on March 6th, 2019, 12:58 am

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”I killed him, I can never return.”

Whatever she had been expecting, it wasn't that. Madeira's protrudent blue yes grew even more so, her mouth slack with the beginnings of shock. Why were all her people murderers? She was still processing the news when Lani grinned at her, showing that same glint of mischievous teeth she normally only suffered from Jomi. Madeira rolled her eyes and smacked the half-bloods shoulder with the back of her hand. Still, Lani might have been joking but there was something a little more real in her eyes as she took her sip of wine. Narth might not be dead, but something told her Lani wished he was.

But that insight sizzled away when Lani suddenly stepped a little too close, her body language changing completely as she handed Madeira back the wine. All at once the Spiritist was uncomfortably aware of the body of her friend, and how much it had changed over the years, and how little of it the foreign clothes covered. She snatched back the offered wine and scowled, taking another swig as if the burn of the wine might excuse the burning in her cheeks. She was an accomplished liar herself, but her way was more aggressive, all in the act and the dulcet tones of persuasion. Lani's was all misdirection, using the beauty and mirth Madeira so clearly lacked. She knew she was being led away but for for the life of her she could not remember why.

Madeira was still trying to sort herself out when Lani stepped away, digging deep into her pockets for a flint.

"We don't need one", the Spiritist dusted off her hands as if to rid herself of the business. "I told you, this house is sentient. It can do some really amazing things."

She led Lani back outside, where the rain was beginning in earnest. It plastered Madeira's blonde hair to her neck and her dress to the bandages still wrapped around her ribs. The flags atop their turrets hung sodden and sad to their poles, the dark stone weeping as the water wound its way through the rough mortared stone. What a perfect day for a funeral.

Madeira knelt where she stood, pressing her palm to the soggy ground. Coaxing her dijed forward, she opened the link between her and her Architectrix and supplied the tired magic with the energy of her soul. The house was already so exhausted, how could she ask this favour without giving something in return?

"Burn it down", she whispered aloud, and stood.

Buoyed by the life force of its creator, the cottage went up in a great roar. The wood and silk and flammable embalming fluid inside engulfed in a moment. The windows cracked and shattered, and tongues of flame licked at the rain soaked stone outside. Inside the singing notebook and the voice box and mechanical arm and all of Savis' other soulless toys burned and twisted and melted, her fine clothing and journal and every research note she ever made went up in smoke.

Madeira felt like she should cry, but somehow she couldn't bring herself to summon the tears. Savis was a century out of her time, there could only be relief in her passing. But more than that, she found she was angry, and the heat up it was burning away every tear she should have shed for her friend. She left me, some selfish internal voice whispered. She was mine, my chess piece, my trump card, and then she left me here alone. She sipped at the wine, and felt the first lingerings of intoxication in the edges of her mind.

The two watched the cottage burn for a long moment, as Syna finally slipped behind the trees and dusk faded away to night. The glow of firelight reflected off Lani's gilded skin, and cut great swaths of shadow across the hollows in her cheeks and the pits of her eyes. She never looked less human. Madeira smiled, realizing how much she missed her.

"Come inside. Lets feed you and get you out of these wet clothes. And you can meet my children. I'm a mother now, can you believe it?" She smiled tightly, turning away from the blazing fire and making the soggy trek back to the house.

The front doors opened for them, revealing a bright, crackling fire in the hearth and another bubbling merrily away under the stove. The first floor was spacious and eclectic and a little worse for wear, with great claw marks and a huge black chemical burn in the wood in the centre of the floor. Still, the walls were sound and the rain was comfortably outside. Madeira wrung out her hair into the puddle they were leaving in the doorway.

"You can bring your bird inside, if you'd like. But this place is severely haunted, so he might might not want to." she continued to the tightly spiralled staircase, and together they clanked their way to the second floor. "Thats the bathing room there, if you'd like to warm up. And you're welcome to any of the bedrooms here too." She assumed rather arrogantly that Lani would be staying with her, the idea of the woman wanting her own space not crossing her mind. "I'll be on the top floor when you're done. All my clothes with be a little small, but you'll have to bear it until we can get your luggage", she smiled. "I can hear the babies now. Settle in, I'll feed them and then we can feed you, okay?"

Not quite sure why, she stopped on the stair above Lani and hugged her one more time. It was uncomfortably cold and wet, but she held tight all the same. "Welcome home, Lani", she smiled into her hair. Welcome back, my Knight.
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Birds of A Feather

Postby Lani Stranger on March 31st, 2019, 8:19 pm

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”Woah.” And then, on no more than the word of Madeira, the castle roiled in flames. It was not a slow burn like kindling in the rain, but rather if someone had thrust a torch into oil, and the heat was hungry to lick up every flammable object within its reach. Lani gaped for a tick, unable to hold in her awe. She was not the most learned scholar, but her mind could find no answer for such an event. Madeira said it was sentient, but that wasn’t enough explanation for the scribe. She was sentient herself, and yet she did not spontaneously set her innards on fire by the words of a human.

The heat was quick to reach her, and while nothing would compare to the magma of boiling earth, it was intense nonetheless. Madeira’s invitation dragged her eyes away and she turned to her friend, instinctively reaching for the human’s hand to take in in stride as they once had so many years ago under Ionu’s eye. Although the hand she grasped was different, the act felt the same as it had always felt. Madeira’s soft grasp had not seen the callous and work that Lani’s had, and so it felt different on a material sense. Lani whistled for Spider, who was hopping in a branch somewhere, or had scattered at the roar of the fire behind their backs. She could not hear the crow following her, but she knew the young thing’s attachment was too grand to allow him to wander too far.

They reached the doorway, and Lani dropped her friend’s hand to unsheathe her sword and run the metal blade along in the inside of her flowing pants in an attempt to dry it. She didn’t mind the rain so much, but she cared for her expensive weapon, and dreaded the idea of it rusting. ”I heard child in the plural from you earlier… do not tell me you had two?” Lani arched an eyebrow, watching her friend ring out her hair before letting her black gaze wander the room. The war that had raged outside had clearly taken its toll on the inside of the house as well. From a cursory glance, she could not see any rain falling into the house, other than the puddles they dragged in, but the room did not look much better. The same faint chemical smell wafted into her nose, and she had to look past the claw marks and damage to see the rich modern furniture. A hearth and stove were already running, working to relax the gooseflesh that rose on her skin as the raindrops nestled in her hair chilling her. Madeira was already welcoming her in, giving her a choice of room and direction to a bath, and it occurred to her the noble had not been lying when she offered Lani her hearth. At the mention of Madeira’s clothes being too small, Lani snapped out of her slight awe.

”Oh, I have clothes.” She recounted, the idea of wearing a dress that cost more Kina than she could make in a year was more intimidating to her than the idea of wearing a dress that brushed her ankles too high. And then it occurred to Lani that she had shared too much. ”Um, somewhere.” The weak excuse followed her truthful words as her mind flew to the small room that folded into night time rested at the nap of her neck, it had been carrying her few necessary items so that the klepto-inclined Svefra did not pilfer them. Lani restrained herself from reaching for the necklace, as she tended to do when she needed the moon’s guidance, knowing that the action would draw Mads’ eye and give her secret away. It didn’t seem appropriate to share with Madeira that she had received such an item. A small part of her wanted to explain it to her friend and bring her to the oasis and show her the glory of the moon. But a larger part of her told her that her oasis was exactly that, hers and although she loved Madeira more than any other living soul, that was too close. Madeira’s warm offers of comfort were too much and too fast for Lani, and she had not before received so much care, which was beginning to create a tingle of unease in her spine. Had she just been offered a bath she could possibly take it, but her childhood friend seemed to trust her enough to give her a room and offer clothing and food as well.

Lani was swept up in the hug, and the recent discomfort with so many things made her reaction stiff and not as warm. She offered a slight smile as Madeira whisped up the stairs, soggy skirts, which had been utterly ruined in the rain and mud, following her wake up the stairs. As soon as she was gone, Lani frowned, turning to look at the living room before her.

Get over yourself. She chanted to herself. This is your best friend, this is Madeira. She can’t hurt you. Her frown deepened as her eyes flew to the hearth, and for the first time she noticed the massive tiger pelt resting above it. Fear spiked through her for a tick before she realized it was long since deceased, and Lani turned away from the watching eyes of the little ghost’s bondmate, seeking out the bathing room that Madeira had pointed her too. Letting the door gently close behind her, and pressing her back against it, Lani took in the silence for a tick. The rain tapped gently and rhythmically on the house, and something inside of her spoiled at the thought of all that had happened. Lani’s original intention was to say hello to Madeira, meet the little poopers, and then return to an inn for the night. She would have many things to do in the morning, although now she was here. Madeira had decided things for her, in the confident and capable way that the younger woman had. And so now she was on Madeira’s charity. Charity she didn’t need, but charity nonetheless.

Scared for a tick that the Alvad might think her half-blood friend in need or incapable, Lani thought about bolting out of the door right now, and into the rain and away from the threat of this woman who knew her too well. But she knew that she couldn’t. Partially because she was curious, after all if Madeira knew her, then she knew Madeira too, was that not how these things worked? Tentatively, Lani stepped away from the door, pumping a bucket full of cold water and selecting a washing cloth from the stock in the room. She didn’t need a full bath, but she needed to rinse the mud from her feet and hands and change into dry clothes. Once Lani was clean, she confronted the starfire key, unclasping it from her neck and examining it for a tick. She could already imagine the oasis appearing around her, and the mixed blood took a moment to focus on it. She craved the wash of calm that the room was sure to give her, and when she turned the key in the invisible lock, summoning the shimmering portal, Lani found she could smell the fresh sandy desert past her ruins.

Once inside she could see the simple pack, Spider’s perches, and the basket of notes and journals, and the small velvet box with Val’s gift. Lani pursued her suitcase, pulling it from the room along with her basket of stationary, leaving the oasis empty once more. ”Leth, give me the strength to stay.” She asked the God briefly, pondering the massive moon that hovered on the horizon and stepping out of the oasis once again, letting the portal close behind her as she reattached the necklace to her neck.

She pawed through her clothing for a tick before her hands found something familiar. The clothing from Zeltiva which had gone unused in Wind Reach. The cotton blouse and linen pants that were slim and form-fitting in the eastern fashions. She had not worn them in a while because they had made her stand out, and yet here they made her fit in. Slipping into the fabrics and ran a comb quickly through her hair, Lani took her wet Bryda and Vinati, wringing the clothing out over the bucket before bundling it up. Deciding she had taken too much time, Lani took her items, which fit awkwardly but easily in both of her arms, and emerged from the bathing room. Carefully she addressed the stairs, and faced down the long hallway of rooms that Madeira had pointed out. Something told her she still had time to deny the offer, but tiredness told her that she had already retrieved her thing from Leth’s oasis, and thus she had committed.

Lani dumped her items in the room nearest to the spiral staircase, and then took two deep breathes, closing her black eyes to the world to collect herself. She would not show weakness again tonight, but that did not mean she could not enjoy her friends company and meeting Madeira’s new family. A large clacking interrupted her self-collection, and Lani’s eyes flew open to see Spider tapping on the window glass. Lani chuckled at the severely wet bird, and rushed to open the glass. Spider squawked at her angrily and flew into the room, circling it twice before landing on her bed. He was quick to begin preening himself and rubbing his head on the pillow. Scolding him, Lani scooped the bird up, wrapping him in her katinu and helping him dry. He was not shivering, just angry, which was fine by Lani’s standards.

”I call you when rain begins. If you come when I call, you don’t suffer.” She told the bird in Nari as if he understood. Still, she said it in a cooing voice that was meant to calm him, and he responded, letting her pet him with the cloth of her coat a few times before struggling out of her reach. Lani let him go, her falconry skills were scarcely existent, the only thing that kept the crow alive was his attachment to her and the fact that she fed him. Spider flapped around the room twice before deciding her shoulder was the best place to perch.

”Okay, you come with me then.” She nodded to the bird whistling at him in the Inartan tongue and ducking out of the room. Madeira had said she was at the top of the stairs, and so Lani continued up, curious and feeling almost as if she was intruding. She stepped carefully, trying to be silent on the wooden stairs as she reached the top of the house, refreshed and with her angry little crow in tow.

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Last edited by Lani Stranger on April 1st, 2019, 4:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Lani Stranger
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Birds of A Feather

Postby Madeira Craven on April 1st, 2019, 12:13 am

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The hug was short, stiff and uncomfortable affair. Madeira lingered a tick longer before she felt the warmth evaporate with the contact. As she pulled away the half blood gave her a tight smile, which the Spiritist returned.

Lani disappeared into the bathing room on the second floor, and Madeira ascended to the third floor. The stairs ended abruptly at the ceiling, but the Spiritist continued, pushing on the well fitted trapdoor that opened into the master bedroom. Here the damage was negligible. Only a faint stench of chemicals drifting up from below, and a few dripping cracks along the stars of her painted domed ceiling. She stepped carefully through the assortment of cups, vases and pitchers along the floor set up to catch the leaks, peeling off her dripping dress as she did. To her left a fireplace crackled to merry life, and near her bed two cradles began rocking gently on their own.

The house was moving through her mind, mentally pulling at her. It wanted to know who she had let into their home, why she was so warmly greeted, why they were offering to feed and clothe and shelter her.

"I owe it to her. She's my friend", Madeira insisted, as she padded naked to her wardrobe and pulled it open, plucking a long nightdress and robe from the line up of big skirts and fancy silks and velvets.

The manor's consciousness bubbled through the air. She could feel it seeping through the floors and walls, searching, questioning. Until finally it touched her mind again, as she was shrugging into her robe.

Liar, it accused.

It flickered through it's memories of the Nuit, pressing them unbidden to Madeira. It showed her conversations it witness, the cottage being built, buying off Laird and the grand gesture she made of offering complete, unfettered access to the magic lab. It reminded her of every showy display of selfless generosity its creator had preformed for Savis, and twisted it. These acts were not selfless, not for long. Soon she began asking for things herself. Favours, expertise. It was never much, not really. Collaborating on a project, introducing her to important acquaintances, promising her friendship, loyalty, asking for a few, inconsequential trinkets...

The door of the heavy wardrobe slammed shut with all Madeira's weight behind it, rattling the windows. The children woke screaming in their cribs.

Stop it, she roared at the house in her mind, pushing back against the unwelcome tide of foreign memories. If you want to say something, say it. Don't give me a petching replay!

Eyes flashing dangerously, she ran to her children, scooping Moritz out of his crib. The boy was getting bigger every day, maybe even every bell. She tucked the shrieking child into her arms and kissed his scrunched red face, burying her face into her son to hide it from her house.

"It's okay, it's okay. Hush, baby, your mother didn't mean to frighten you. Gentle now. Gentle." She rocked him with her body, stepping up to one of the many windows overlooking the grounds. Savis's cottage was still burning, the stones blackening around the shattered windows. They glared like eyes in the dark.

The house's consciousness had shrunk away from her outburst, but came creeping back as she comforted her children.

Why? it asked plaintively, the question rising like mist around her, reaching and formless.

"You don't understand", Madeira whispered, head nestled into the boy in her arms. " I need her. I need all of them, more than they could ever possibly need me. What else can I do?"

You're setting a trap.

"I'm making myself indisposable." she countered fiercely, lifting her head to snarl at the empty air. "I'm evening the playing field by giving them everything they could possibly want. Is that so cruel? Being open handed and generous is not a sin. I've never forced anyone to stay."

Except to make it impossible to leave.

Once Moritz burbled into quiet, Madeira laid him down and picked up his sister. Amelie was smaller than her brother, but not by much. Like him she was growing at an alarming rate. Pulling down her night dress Madeira offered the girl her breast, and the baby immediately latched on, sucking hungrily. In the ensuing quiet the crackling of the fire, both inside and out in the rain, was deafening.

"Not with her. Not Lani" Madeira scrubbed the back of her hand over her eyes, wiping away her shame with the back of her hand. "I lost Savis, but now I have Lani back. This was Ionu's doing", she laughed, a tight, strained sound that bubbled from her chest. "It's a trick. Savis depended on me, but Lani never did. I'll lose her too. If I'm not careful I will. And I'll be alone again."

Madeira was weak, and she knew this intimately. She had no skills besides gathering people around her. She needed them to fight her battles, watch her back, lend their skills, hold her up. She was a leader to a lot of them, but a shallow, carboard cutout of a person. She was a frail little girl with a pretty mouth who thought herself a queen. And she was waiting for the day they realized this, and left her to fend for herself.

But the house was hardly listening to her anymore. Wonderment was nestled in its mind as it observed something downstairs.

"What is it?" Madeira shook her head and sniffed hard, composing herself.

Beckoning her mind closer, the house showed her exactly what it just saw. It was Lani, in the bathing room, stepping into a familiar sheen of silvery light, and disappearing. Madeira's fist clutched at the key sitting in the valley between her breasts.

"Holy shyke."

The house mirrored the sentiment.

Soon, after they had both taken the time to dry and refresh themselves, the house chimed up, letting Madeira know the woman was climbing the winding iron stairs.

The Spiritist had exchanged Amelie for Moritz, so her son was nursing ravenously at her sore breast. She held him there while she opened the door one-handedly before the woman could knock. The Avalad didn't seem especially surprised that the half blood had a bird with her, though the house failed to mention it. She smiled and stepped back, letting the two inside.

"Hello", she nodded to the raven. "And who are you?" Even as she spoke she couldn't help the slide of her eyes to the front of Lani's blouse, where she knew the starfire key to be. Catching herself, she tore her eyes away and gestured to the large, hexagonal room, with the tall, cracked windows on every wall and a pretty painted roof leaking into porcelain bowls. 'Welcome to my humble abode. Don't mind the mess, our last visitor was not as gracious as you."

She led Lani to the hearth, and the small seating area that surrounded it. Sitting on a low couch she pulled Moritz from her breast and shrugged back into the shoulder of her dress. The greedy baby began to fuss immediately at the loss of milk, but Madeira quieted him by sticking her pinkie finger in his mouth.

"This is my son, Moritz." she jiggled him on her knee. "He's a kelvic, like his sister and their father. They're less than a month old, and premature besides. Can you believe that?" She laughed like it was funny, though there was something sad in her eyes. The child on her lap could have easily been twice as old and still large for his age. On the other side of the room Amelie's cradle began to rock.

"Here, hold him while I get Amelie." She pushed her son onto Lani's lap without permission and got to her feet. As she looked down on Lani, who had no choice but to hold the baby, Madeira wondered if love would make her stay. Would that be enough? She padded barefoot to the other cradle and lifted out her daughter, who burbled happily at her.

"Lani..." she began carefully as she returned, holding Amelie to her shoulder. "You know you can trust me, don't you? With anything. I won't ask why you left again. But... if you ever need... Lani, I can be your safe port. If anything comes up, come back to me. I'll always be here for you."

As long as you are here for me.

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Birds of A Feather

Postby Lani Stranger on April 1st, 2019, 4:53 am

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Limber. Lani thought, climbing through the trapdoor that her friend held for her, an errant thought wondering how Madeira did it while pregnant… or holding a child. Ever so polite, Madeira greeting her crow, and Lani grinned.

”Stranger!” The crow yelled in response to Madeira. The first of his two learned Nari words sounding no different than a typical squawk, except Lani was now versed in the language. Just before she could get two feet on the ground properly, Spider was off, eager to explore the new room afforded to him. He flapped around the room a few times, sharp black eyes eyeing Madeira’s shiny things. For a tick he swooped near Madeira’s wardrobe, enticed by her mirror when Lani gave a sharp whistle to the crow. She wasn’t sure if the thing understood the Nari word for ‘no’ yet but she had learned the sharp whistle was distracting enough to pull him away from whatever he was doing. The crow continued circling the room once more before flapping over to the back of a couch beside the hearth and bristled his feathers to let the heat in to his wet coat. Satisfied with his placement, the crow made himself at home and begun preening himself, stopping only every few ticks to preen the cushion of the soft couch as well.

”This is Spider.” Lani answered Madeira after she was sure her crow would not be tearing apart any of her friend’s things. She had been watching the crow, and so missed Madeira’s glance at her starfire key. As far as she was aware, her secret was yet undiscovered. ”He is an asshole, ” She explained, taking in that this room was far worse for wear than the main room had been. ”I’m assuming your last visitor was the priest of Uldr?” She asked, shivering at the through of whatever horrible creatures these things could have been, and what Madeira had gone through to fight them.

Fatigue was beginning to pick at the edges of her consciousness and so she was grateful to sit by the fire with Madeira. Spider hopped to the other side of the couch when Madeira sat down, and then upon catching sight of the baby, hopped back over. Lani took the chance to remove the crow from possibly nipping at the child, she was not sure how he would react to such things. Relaxing into the other end of the couch, Lani pulled her feet up and tucked the thickly padded toes beneath her thighs so she could listen to Madeira, not particularly interested in the children other than to note they were both Kelvics, how interesting. The half-breed adjusted so that she could loop one hand around the back of the couch and stroke Spider, reflecting for a moment on how domestic the scene was.

”Do you know what kind of animals they are?” She asked curiously, eyes lingering on the glimpse of abused breast as Madeira readjusted her shift. Normally Lani would have enjoyed any view such as that, but the flesh was so swollen and freshly reddened that it was rather off putting to the half-Eypharian instead. Lani was wholly unaware of the realities of pregnancy. She knew very little of Kelvics, other than that they were fairly common and unrecognizable from humans, as far as she could tell. And that she had briefly been one, taking on the Jackal form for the better part of the past fall. It had been extraordinarily confusing and having more than one body had been too much for the mixed blood to wrap her mind around in order to control it. The crow did not get much of her attention before Madeira was dumping one of her children in Lani’s arms with little warning.

”Oh!” She said. Her reaction was split between crossing her arms to not accept the thing, and instinctively reaching for a more supportive position, as the child seemed too fragile. ”Gods, Madeira, he is huge!” She gasped, adjusting the thing in her arms so that he was somewhat supported, although she did not want to press the child against her body. The child seemed older than he should, although she had little idea on the timeline of infant human growth. Through her fuzzy mind she tried to do the math and recount when Madeira had said she had given birth, it didn’t add up. Moritz squirmed in her arms for a few ticks, making it difficult to hold him out like she was and she relented, letting most of his weight rest on her chest and cradling his head in the pit of her elbow while she supported his swaddled bum with her hand. He was fussing a bit, grabbing at her hair, and she tried to peel his itty bitty fingers away although she was terrified of somehow snapping them off so she did so gently.

Spider hopped closer to her, peering at the child curiously. Unwilling to take the chance he wasn’t going to be kind, since his beak was so sharp, Lani reached up and shooed him away, waving her hand in his face until the crow hopped away from her, dejected. ”Leave him be.” She said to the crow in Nari, and then turned back to trying to get the boy from her hair. While she had been distracted he had satisfied himself with chewing on the long black lock, and she frowned but let it continue. He had stopped fussing at least.

"You know you can trust me, don't you? With anything. I won't ask why you left again. But... if you ever need... Lani, I can be your safe port. If anything comes up, come back to me. I'll always be here for you." Madeira spoke now, dragging Lani’s attention away from the child in her arms. Lani could sense the words were not all the truth, or at least that the truth had not all been spoken, and she stiffened at the thought of deep conversation. She hated conversation. Instead of answering immediately, Lani adjusted the baby in her arms so that she could loosen her fingers from him, channeling the passive auristics into them to pick up the movement of Madeira’s aura. Although she had known Madeira longer than anyone, she had never used her auristics on her before and so had to decode the various vibrations and swaying of her aura that was read by the freckled in her finger tips. There was a slight defensiveness there, quickly receeding, although she knew not what it was for. Tiredness and a soft anticipation that was vibrating faster and seemed to be growing in her aura. She definitely wanted to talk.

Lani’s smile was tense at first and then she let it soften as she realized what that anticipation was. Madeira was collecting her. At the moment the mixed blood could not fathom entirely what it was the woman wanted, but she knew that Madeira was generous… for a price. The thought genuinely comforted her, and she relaxed the tips of her fingers, still feeling the auristic movement in the air, but no longer focusing on them. So long as she remembered that Madeira would keep her close, so long as she was useful, Lani found herself more comfortable with that idea than that Madeira simply loved and old friend. The idea that more than a decade of friendship was enough to keep one close didn’t seem real to Lani, and it would have sent her faster running than if she had to make a deal to stay. But what did Madeira want?

”I know that.” She finally said, her voice a little lower after having thought just a little too long before responding. ”And you should know the same is extended for you, dear friend.” She spoke with earnest. She was entirely unsure what face she should present for an earnest heart-to-heart conversation, the kind she regularly tried to avoid. Whenever Narth started them up, she could distracted him by physical means. When Val had implored, she could distract him with questions. With Madeira…. What could she distract her with? ”Actually… I should tell you why I left.” She bit her lip, her heart taking a small leap at the idea that she was going to share with a friend.

It is necessary. You share things to forge a relationship. You did it in your letters when she didn’t seem quite real yet, you can do it now that you know she is. She told herself to try and work up the courage, adjusting Moritz carefully so that he could still gnaw on her hair but so that her arm did not fall asleep. Holding the child reminded her of the images of the black haired blue eyed baby that never was, and the nerves in her heart leapt faster at the thought of sharing him with Madeira, but she had to. ”I left because, I—have to meet with the Tower. The Twilight Tower, to finish my mother’s work.” Her voice dropped ever so slightly before she was about to admit to her friend, and then she found other words peeling from her mouth. The sorrow that had been ready to leak into her voice still did, but it was not wasted on her new words. They were not what she intended to say, and yet the words were not a lie either, in fact it had been on her mind for a while and would be the focus of her next day’s work. It would be a heavy topic as well, but Lani was so numb to her mother’s mistakes at this point that it was a possible topic to talk about, whereas the other would remain buried. She had hoped that sharing something in Madeira would reel her in, to let the vulnerability of the confession attract the woman’s hunger for power. She would give Madeira something but it wouldn’t be possible to share everything with her, no matter if she wanted to.

”You do work with the Dawn Tower right? Might you know Tasa? Or Weisur?” She asked, carefully trying to direct the conversation back again. Words were not her expertise, but subterfuge did not always require the words. Lani adjusted slightly to turn her shoulders square back towards Madeira, realizing she had closed herself off and shrunk behind Moritz, facing the fire to be out of the woman’s piercing blue gaze. She rolled her shoulders and forced her spine to relax, leaning back into the corner of the couch and taking a slow deep breath in to relax her jaw and eyes. She wanted to appear as relaxed as possible not a nervous lying mess that her watchful friend would surely see through. ”Weisur had previously held issue with my mother’s work, and so it may be difficult to convince him to let me study there. However Tasa was my mother’s mentor, and so it is possible I will be able to get in under a separate guise.” She said, her mind focusing on this new topic now, ready to plot an advantage with her friend, who would surely understand the modern Lhavitian politics better than Lani had ten years ago under Hayani’s rule. She had noticed there were no longer slaves in the city, but the mixed blood was unaware that the dark days had passed.

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Birds of A Feather

Postby Madeira Craven on April 1st, 2019, 9:02 pm

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Madeira watched Lani handle Moritz with her lips pressed into thin hard lines to keep the smile off her face. The half blood was at once cradling him gently and endeavouring to hold him as far away from her body as she could. Her son was smiling gummily, gnawing away at the thick black hair he was wrapped around his chubby fist, his eyes looking up at this strange black eyed woman without even the slightest hint of trepidation. He made a gooey, keening sound that might have been a happy sign. Nearby that strange crow, Spider, was watching with beady black interest. Jealous, perhaps, of the attention Lani was giving the squirming pink thing in her arms? It looked like poor Lani was a mother too.

"He likes you", Madeira laughed, watching the uncomfortable bonding experience between her son and her friend while bouncing Amelie on her lap. The little girl was falling right back to sleep to the sound of the crackling fire and the rain dripping through the ceiling. Madeira stroked her soft down hair and rocked her gently against her body. "I haven't seen their animal forms yet. I don't know what it will happen, or what to do when it does, either. There's not exactly a handbook for this, you know? And I won't put my children in collars."

It would be shameful for a Craven to wear a collar, she almost said. But her fight with Jomi just last week was still ringing in her head. He didn't seem to think she understood the fact that these children were first and foremost, animals. He tried to peel away her plans for their education, her plans to raise them right, and dignified. But they may be animals, and bastards, and they might never meet their family or the city that would have been their home, but they were Craven still. And a Craven does not wear a collar.

At Madeira's heartfelt plea for Lani to trust her, the half blood seemed to recoil. When she did speak, a beat too late, her words were measured and careful. Of course the same was extended to her dear friend, the half blood said. This was new. The Leavou of Madeira's childhood was the mistrustful sort, but rarely careful, and never cautious. The empty years without her seemed to loom large then, as Madeira tried to see around it, and figure out what she was missing. Lani had an entire decade of experiences Madeira wasn't privy too, and growth she had never seen.

”Actually… I should tell you why I left.”

Madeira's ears perked up at the nervous cadence in her voice that sounded so, inescapably real. Give me this one little thing, the spiritist inwardly begged. One little piece of you. One piece was all she would need. With one the rest would follow, like invoking a ghost. You just needed a tiny little piece, and with effort and coaxing the rest would inevitably follow. And then she could belong to her in truth.

But almost immediately, with a stumbling misstep in her words, Lani seemed to diffuse. The nervous energy disappeared, and she spoke about the Towers, and finishing her mothers work.

Now it was her time to accuse. Liar.

This was the same thing she saw in the cottage, when she asked about Narth and why she had left Wind Reach. Lani was deflecting her. Her entire body language was closed off and turned away as she faced the fire, the flames reflecting gold in her eyes. She was like an impenetrable shell of a person, Madeira's carefully cut words had simply slid off of her, and she couldn't even begin to see what she was hiding. Not that she looked for long.

Lani had unrolled herself, putting on a transparent act with her body as she loosened her posture and faced Madeira fully. She talked about the Towers, stirred the pot with important names, steered the conversation into the waters she knew Madeira would like. This was the same baited deflection from the cottage, but even recognizing it the spiritist couldn't ignore it. Lani knew her too well. She struck straight at the heart of what Madeira wanted, and this this time it was with something even more appetizing than her sexuality.

What did she care about more, the wellbeing of her friend or a step closer to power? She knew what the answer should be. She should shake off Lani's obvious bait and convince her to open up to her oldest friend, and tell her what was wrong. This woman ran to another city entirely to escape something. This was important. She could help.

The Architectrix was watching from the corner of her mind, its wooden bones creaking around them. It watched as Madeira got up from the low seat with difficulty, balancing herself with her nearly healed hand. She paced in front of the low fireplace, gently rocking her body like a ship at sea to keep the baby asleep. The sparks from the damp wood purposefully fizzled out before getting anywhere near her dress. The house was always doing its best to keep her safe.

Madeira worked her tongue around her mouth. "I work for Dusk, not Dawn", she began, and she silently weathered the disappointment of the manor. Her tone was businesslike, steady, and compliant as she followed the conversations trajectory that Lani had pushed for. And she hated herself for it. "Sad to say I don't personally know Tasa or Weisur. The only one I've met is Lheili Dawn, and even that one is a bit... complicated. There's very little pull I have to help you get in, beyond a recommendation that you obviously don't need. But a lot has changed these past years apparently, and this season especially. The Towers are less far reaching and much more jealous and self contained. I can prepare you the best I can with what I know to help you get in."

Friendship doesn't keep you in control, power does. As much as she wanted it, she couldn't let the opportunity pass to insulate against the weakness within herself that she was working against. But it was fine. Lani wanted this too. She was all but giving herself away to her. Her true knight was coming to protect her queen once again.

My, how twisted they both were, Madeira ruminated as she stroked Amelie's forehead. Maybe thats how this friendship started, and managed to last this long. They were attracted to the weakness in the other, or maybe the opposing strength that covered the deficiencies in the other.

"If that doesn't work, I can always manufacture some favours. I have one ghost in particular who's fond of a little chaos, and I've been known to play the hero on occasion." Her smile was a shapely curve of lips and teeth, perfect but for the unsettling seriousness of her eyes. There was no sense hiding how underhanded she could be, Lani knew her too well. "There are always other ways. We'll get you in, so you can finish Ryse's work, don't worry."

And then she could have a reaching hand into Twilight too. The opportunities that presented could be amazing, if she played her cards right. She just needed to break that barrier, sink her claws into the Towers so as to be immovable. Necessary things were never discarded. And once she was there, she could crawl her way to leadership, like she had always wanted in Alvadas. With that kind of power she will never be weak again. With that kind of control she would never half to worry about being abandoned or alone.

She could do it, but only with Lani's help. She needed her knight, her oldest friend, to protect her.

"You must be tired" she turned back to her friend. "Help me put the Mortiz and Amelie to bed, and we can finally turn in ourselves. It's been a long couple of days, and we have more ahead, don't we? I'm... I'm really glad you're home, Lani. Just promise me something", she smiled. "Still be here in the morning, okay?"

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